JONESTOWN — Missing police equipment and a shortage of officers highlighted discussion during the Jonestown City Council meeting Monday, May 6.
The discussion began during the time citizens had an opportunity to comment in response to the council approving Police Chief Rico Smith attending a law enforcement convention. Smith is the lone officer in Jonestown and is employed on a part-time basis. The other two positions for police officers were eliminated more than one year ago.
The convention is two days in Oxford on June 24 and 25 and in Long Beach on June 27 and 28. Smith will attend the first day of the convention in Oxford on June 24 and the second day in Long Beach on June 28.
Alderman Gregory Neely Sr. attempted to go into executive session after Smith provided his report. However, Mayor Kenny Lester said having an executive session was not on the agenda and that would have to take place at a special meeting.
When members of the audience addressed the issue toward the end of the meeting, Alderman Unta Wiley said more officers are needed immediately.
“That’s one thing we were trying to go into executive session about was to discuss our police situation. Things are getting out of hand,” Wiley said.
“That is the main concern for our citizens safety. All this other stuff that’s going on I understand is important, but first is our citizens’ safety.”
Wiley said a special meeting should be called as soon as possible.
One citizen asked if there would be officers on duty 24 hours because shootings are happening during the middle of the night.
Lester urged anyone aware of shootings to report the incidents.
“Police can’t solve no crime unless somebody get involved,” he said.
Alderwoman Yvonne Williams-Brooks said the town should be closed after midnight.
“All these late parties that we’ve been having, we don’t even know nothing about,” she said. “We haven’t even given anyone permission, to my knowledge, to have parties at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning. But it’s happening because somebody is telling them they can do it.”
Williams-Brooks said if council members knew about some of the issues, extra law enforcement officers could be called to deal with the situation.
“When the shooting was going on, we had police,” Lester said. “I have seen shootings happen at 10, 11 at night when we had police.”
Lester called on parents to take responsibility.
“Parents got to raise kids,” he said. “Parents can’t let kids go on the streets all night, all day, doing whatever they want to do.”
Then, Lester said parents complain after their son is locked up and bail him out on a $1,000 bond.
“Police cannot stop what’s going on,” he said. “It’s going to take the people of this community getting tired of sitting at home turning their thumbs, running to church on Sunday and hollering hallelujah.”
After being asked when the city was supposed to get a grant to purchase more police equipment, Lester said he had no idea.
“If we had that money, could we spend it now to bring those other officers back?” Neely said.
Neely said the officers who were laid off turned in their equipment and it is not accounted for. He added new guns could not be purchased until the equipment was found.
District 3 representative from the Coahoma County Board of Supervisors Derrell Washington, whose area includes Jonestown, was in the audience and entered the discussion.
“I do understand what you’re saying,” said Washington to Neely. “What you’re saying makes perfect sense, but it’s going to be a sad day when somebody in this community is killed and we’re fussing about policing and guns not being there. If the gun’s gone, they’re gone.”
“You still can’t buy none because you’re going to be investigated and they’re going to ask you where are those weapons?” Neely replied.
Washington said, if it is in the budget, the city could purchase guns.
“Why don’t we have police officers?” Neely said. “The board voted to bring police officers back.”
“You think for one minute I’m going to hire two more people that I can’t tell what to do?” replied Lester “I’ve got five that I can’t tell what to do.”
Washington said the Board of Supervisors could purchase guns for Jonestown, if necessary.
“If it came down to it where the town needed two guns, I will go to my board and ask the board to purchase two guns for the town of Jonestown,” Washington said.